Guide to understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 9

9. Vehicles, engines and fuels

9.1 What are emissions from transportation?

Transportation is the largest source of air pollution in Canada. The use of internal combustion engines to power vehicles and equipment results in a number of smog-causing pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and carbon monoxide. Fuels that are burned in cars, trucks and in stationary equipment also contain sulphur. These substances are directly related to major adverse impacts on the environment and health of Canadians.

The use of internal combustion engines for off-road vehicles, lawn and garden equipment and other machines similarly causes air pollution. The contribution to air pollution from these sources has become more prominent as road vehicles meet ever-tighter emission standards.

Pollutant emissions can be effectively controlled through improvements to fuel quality and through stringent vehicle and engine emission standards. With authorities to control both fuel and vehicle emissions in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), there are better opportunities to ensure that a system approach is taken.

9.2 How is CEPA 1999 used to manage fuels?

CEPA 1999 includes provisions to control the quality of fuels. It provides for maximums, minimums or a range of characteristics to be set, and also allows for a performance-based approach to fuel standards.

Other provisions in CEPA 1999 permit flexibility in the authority to make regulations covering, for example, different sources of fuels, the place or time of their use and the fuel's effect on the operation of emissions control equipment. There are also provisions for a "national fuels mark," a trademark that could be used to promote a national standard for fuels where certain characteristics may be desirable.

9.3 How is CEPA 1999 used to manage emissions from vehicles, engines and equipment?

CEPA 1999 incorporates responsibility for regulating emissions from on-road vehicles that were previously contained in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and its regulations and administered by Transport Canada. In addition, CEPA 1999 allows for regulating emissions from engines used in off-road applications. Examples include spark-ignition (gasoline) engines used in lawnmowers, chainsaws, light industrial machines, outboard motors and off-road recreational vehicles as well as compression ignition (diesel) engines used in construction, industrial, farm and forestry machines. The authority for regulating emissions from engines used to power large marine vessels, aircraft and trains are covered under separate federal legislation administered by Transport Canada.

The main objective is to reduce the contribution of on-road and off-road vehicles and engines to air pollution in Canada through the development and implementation of regulated emission performance standards for vehicles, engines and equipment manufactured in Canada and imported into Canada. The act provides for the adoption of emission regulations from other countries, including those in the United States, which have the most progressive emission standards for vehicles and engines. This approach provides for harmonized products in North America and combined environmental and economic benefits.

CEPA 1999 also provides for a "national emissions mark," which can be used to show that vehicles, engines and equipment meet emissions standards. Companies are not permitted to import into or to transport within Canada or sell any prescribed vehicles, engines or equipment that do not have a national emissions mark or do not meet prescribed requirements.

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